Description of Historic Place
The building at 180 Elizabeth Street, known as Macpherson House, is situated on the north bank of the Napanee River, east of Camden Road, in the Town of Greater Napanee. The two-storey, wood-frame building was designed in the Neoclassical style and was constructed in 1826.
The exterior, select elements of the interior and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1982). The property is also designated by the Town of Greater Napanee under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 169-77)in 1977. The property is now owned and operated by the Lennox and Addington Historical Society and has operated as a house museum since 1967.
Situated on the north bank of the Napanee River in the East Ward neighbourhood of the Town of Greater Napanee, the Macpherson House is located in the historic centre of Napanee. Prior to the 1840s, most of the important village structures such as Napanee's first store, tavern, church and school were located close to Macpherson's House, in what is now the eastern end of the town. Convenient to Macpherson's house, at the base of East Street, was Macpherson's mill, while his store with post office was nearby, at the foot of Adelphi Street. The broad lawns, kitchen garden and terraces contribute to the integrity of the property.
Macpherson House was the residence of Allan Macpherson (1784-1875), the most prominent and influential citizen of Napanee for much of the first half of the 19th century. The son of a noted British army officer, Macpherson moved from Kingston to Napanee in c. 1812 and became well-known in the community as the operator of the grist mill, the primary feature of the village. In addition to operating the grist mill, Macpherson developed extensive business interests in lumbering and owned a sawmill, a distillery and a general store, that also functioned as the community's first post office, with Macpherson serving as the postmaster. Macpherson was also a civic leader, serving as a magistrate, Justice of the Peace and Major in the Lennox militia. Exemplifying his concern for the improvement of the community, Macpherson personally financed the construction of the village's first school house. Due to this wide involvement in commercial and civic activities, Macpherson earned the nickname 'the Laird of Napanee.' With his wife, Mary, who was the daughter of Judge Fisher of nearby Adolphustown, the cosmopolitan couple made the house a social gathering place. Sir John A. MacDonald, who was related to Macpherson's stepmother, was a frequent visitor to the house, especially after 1832, when MacDonald opened a law office in the village of Clarksville. The house remained in the Macpherson family until 1896, though Allan and Mary moved back to Kingston in 1849.
Macpherson House is a vernacular interpretation of the Neoclassical style and was one of the most substantial houses to be constructed in the County of Lennox and Addington, in the early 19th century. Built in 1826, the Macpherson House incorporates a variety of Neoclassical features, with an otherwise earlier Georgian form, exemplifying the transitional architecture of the period. While the rectangular, five-bay, symmetrical plan of the Macpherson House, with its side gable roof and lapped siding is indicative of Georgian architecture in Upper Canada, detailing characterizes the structure as Neoclassical. On the exterior, this detailing is most evident in the wide, elaborate doorways with their highly decorative sidelights of intricately patterned glazing and the fan-like transom lights. Pilasters framing the doorways survive as part of a larger casing feature or portico, which would have further distinguished the residence. Other key elements of the exterior include the moulded cornice, with returns on the end walls, and the central, tripartite windows of the second storey, which are a variant of the classical Venetian window, and mirror the sidelights below. Handsomely cased archways, windows and doors contribute to the elegance of the interior, as does the second-floor ballroom with its crown mouldings and the open staircase with its hollow newel. The dining room niche is a highly characteristic element of the Neoclassical style. The one-and-a-half storey kitchen wing, off the east end of the house, was built in the 1830s and contains a kitchen, with large cooking fireplace complete with bake oven and smoke closet. High quality limestone was easily obtainable in Napanee, and comprises the foundation of the house and the kitchen chimney base.
Source: OHT Easement Files
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Macpherson House include its:
- symmetrical, two-storey, five-bay, rectangular plan with one-and-a-half storey, three-bay kitchen wing extension
- cedar shingle clad side gable roof with dormer windows on the extension
- cornice with multiple mouldings and returns
- wood-frame construction with lapped siding and beaded corner boards
- exposed limestone rubblework foundation
- wide central doorways framed by pilasters with six-panel double doors, elaborately glazed sidelights and transom lights with a fan-like glazing pattern
- tripartite, Venetian-type windows with highly decorative outer lights (to match the sidelights below)
- double-hung, twelve-over-twelve, wooden-sash windows and other multi-pane windows
- three internal red brick chimneys
- Georgian floor plan, two rooms deep on either side of a central hall with the kitchen in a separate (east) wing and second storey ballroom
- open, straight-flight staircase with plain, thin balusters and hollow newel
- austere plaster finish of the walls and ceiling, simply detailed with a chair rail, window and door casings, window under-panels and ballroom crown moulding
- interior woodwork which includes roundel corner blocks in the window and door casings of the formal rooms
- elaborately cased archways
- wooden mantelpieces with roundel corner block detailing
- wide-board, pine flooring
- dining room niche
- functional elements and details of the kitchen such as large cooking fireplace with bake oven, smoke chimney, chimneypiece, larder and vertical board panelling
- unfinished and functional character of the basement with exposed stone walls, a large cooking fireplace with iron crane and bake oven, and built-in cupboards
- situation in the East Ward neighbourhood, within the original centre of Napanee and close to the location of Macpherson's general store and grist mill
- broad lawns with terraces and 0.41 hectare lot
- desirable riverside situation with unobstructed views over the Napanee River